Pet Sematary becomes the latest Stephen King adaptation to come to home release next week as the DVD and Blu-ray hits shelves across the country. Thanks to a career that has spanned decades, and stories beloved across the world, there have been literally dozens of films made from his works. To celebrate this new release here are five films based on his books that we consider to be some of the best.
Whilst the 1990 television mini-series Stephen King’s IT is considered by many to be one of the all time classics, with a brilliant performance from Tim Curry as the titular creature, the 2017 adaptation of the first half of the story is by far the superior of the two. Updated somewhat to bring it into line with our current era, setting the past in the 1980s rather than the 1950s, the new version of this story remains much truer to the King original in tone, if not in every tiny detail.
Director Andy Muschietti and screenwriters Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga, and Gary Dauberman have altered a few of the smaller details, such as Mike’s parents having died in a fire, or Georgie’s body being missing. This version is much more a horror, with the killer clown being so much more frightening and sinister. The film mixes slow burn tension and jump scares to great degrees, and spends the time with the characters so that you actually care for them.
With an absolutely stunning performance from Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise the Clown, beautiful cinematography, and the promise of more to come from the second part when it hits cinemas in September, this is one of the best recent Stephen King films by far.
The Mist (2007)
Based upon the short story The Mist, part of King’s anthology book Skeleton Crew, the 2007 big screen version of this tense horror thriller wowed audiences not just because of its amazing cast and great acting, but because of an ending that would live long in the minds of those who had watched it.
Written and directed by Frank Darabont, who had previously also adapted The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile from King’s work, The Mist chose to tell a very personal kind of horror story, one where the people are just as frightening as the monsters that stalk through the mist. Described by Darabont as “Lord of the Flies that happens to have some cool monsters in it”, he focused on how people handle otherworldly horror differently, and how it can make them turn against each other. If you’ve not seen the film, please go and do so, but avoid talking to anyone about it before you do as you do not want this one spoilt for you, as it may have one of the best endings in film history.
The Shining (1980)
Based upon one of King’s most iconic works Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining is held up not only as one of the best examples of a Stephen King adaptation, but one of the most popular horror films ever made. Starring Jack Nicholson as a former alcoholic who travels into the snowy mountains with his family to look after a hotel during the winter shutdown, the film tells a story of a man battling with not just his own demons, but the evil spirits that haunt the hotel.
With some creepy performances from both Nicholson and his co-star Shelley Duvall, intentionally bizarre and disturbing set design and editing, and a soundtrack that sends shivers up your spine, The Shining is a film that has sparked discussion and debate amongst film fans for decades. Famously hated by King as an adaptation of his work when first released, he admits that it has become one of his favourites over the years.
The Green Mile (1999)
You’d be hard pressed to find someone that has watched The Green Mile and hasn’t been touched in some way by it. Set during the great depression, the film tells the story of prison officer Paul Edgecomb (Tom Hanks) as he encounters the mysterious John Coffey (Michael Clarke Duncan), a man accused of the rape and murder of two young girls. Over the course of the film both Edgecomb and the audience learn that not only is John a gentle soul, but has the power to cure the sick and even raise the dead, something that he was trying to do for the murdered girls when he was found. The story of John Coffey, and his subsequent execution for a crime he didn’t commit, is both wonderfully touching and heartbreaking.
Nominated for numerous awards, including Oscars for both best film and best supporting actor for the late Michael Clarke Duncan, it is still one of the best received King film adaptations to date, and one that is sure to break even the most stoic heart.
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The Running Man (1987)
Possibly the most surprising entry in this list, especially as a lot of people forget that it’s based upon a King book, The Running Man might not be the kind of story that you’d expect to come from the ‘master of horror’. Based upon the short story originally written by King under the pseudonym Richard Bachman, the film sees Arnold Schwarzeneggar star as Ben Richards, a former soldier and prisoner in a dark future.
Framed for a mass murder that he didn’t commit, Richards escapes from prison and goes on the run, only to be recaptured by the authorities and forced to participate in The Running Man, a televised game show where competitors are made to fight for their lives in a gladiator like setting.
Despite being an over the top action film The Running Man is surprisingly deep, containing themes about poverty, sociological collapse, and government corruption – all themes that reviewers and commentators have pointed out that the film predicted well in later viewings.
The film might not be for everyone, especially as it’s very different from a lot of King’s more popular themes and tones, but The Running Man is widely considered to be not just a classic Arnie movie, but a great example of an over the top 80’s action movie.